Cuba said it dispatched a brigade of elite doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy, Canada’s National Post reported.
The Caribbean island has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution. Its doctors were in the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s, the report said.
Meanwhile, the Russian military will send medical help to Italy starting Sunday to help it to battle the coronavirus after receiving an order from Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.
According to The Independent, Putin spoke to Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday, the Kremlin said, adding that the Russian leader had offered his support and help in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles and specialists.
Italy recorded a jump in deaths from the coronavirus of almost 800 on Saturday, taking the toll in the world’s hardest-hit country to almost 5,000, the report said.
“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” Leonardo Fernandez, 68, an intensive care specialist in Havana, told Reuters on Saturday shortly before his 52-strong Cuban brigade departed for Italy.
“He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors.”
Fernandez said this would be his eighth international mission, including one in Liberia during the fight against Ebola.
This is the sixth medical brigade Cuba has sent in recent days to combat the spread of the new disease abroad. It has sent contingents to socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua as well as Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada.
The Cuban doctors and nurses will join the ten professionals from China who arrived on Thursday in Milan, telesurtv.net reported.
Cuban and Chinese medical personnel will be sent to a field hospital in Bergamo, the region of Lombardy most affected by the pandemic.
The Russian Defence Ministry said that military transport planes would deliver eight mobile brigades of military medics, special disinfection vehicles and other medical equipment to Italy this week, The Independent reported.
Russia will also send about 100 military specialists in virology and epidemics, the Interfax news agency cited the defence ministry as saying.